Making television advertising work in the home improvement business is a challenge, but find the formula that works and it can be a scaleable lead source that builds your brand like nothing else.


  • Spend too little on your initial buy, and your frequency will never reach critical mass. You'll write off TV without a fair test.
  • Don't buy spots, buy impressions. An “expensive” spot may deliver a lower cost per thousand in your demographic than a “cheap” spot.
  • Talk to competing sales reps. Learn all you can about spot availability. In some markets, car dealers run their spots early in the month. You can buy cheaper when the car dealers are silent. And plan for a TV hiatus during political season.
  • Frequency is critical. Five spots in the same program to the same audience in a week will likely produce better results than 10 spots run-of-station — spots that reach a bigger audience but not often enough to reach critical mass. Buy commercials in two-week flights rather than a lighter schedule for a month.
  • Low-involvement programming is best for direct response. Go with Oprah, local news, or a Saturday afternoon movie, not the season final episode of 24.

PITCH YOUR BUSINESS Finally, don't buy your television schedule, sell it.

Station sales managers have broad discretion. Pitch the sales manager face to face, not through the rep. Propose at least a three-month schedule built around his unsold inventory. Help him fill his book. Define the demographic, weight, and frequency that will be effective for you, then sell him on running that schedule at your price. Talk in terms of your total annual advertising budget in all media. Make it clear that you'll move money to the most productive medium. Sell him on your value as an advertiser with the same preparation and determination you'd sell him a siding job. —John Stevens is a partner in Peterson/Stevens, an advertising agency that specializes in brand-building and lead generation for the home improvement industry. 800.270.0911;